Istanbul 2012

From Al-Madina Institute:

Note: In early September Al-Madina Institute held a spiritual tour of Istanbul accompanied by Shaykh Mokhtar Maghraoui and Ustadh Moutasem Atiya.  Fifty participants partook in event (Al-Madina Institute never exceeds one bus to further enrich the experience).  Al-Madina’s next trip will be to Spain in 2013, which you can learn more about by clicking here

Gazing upon the ornate and awe-inspiring calligraphy that adorned the Sultan Ahmed Jami one can almost hear the famous lover and poet Majnun speak of his love:

I pass by these walls, the walls of Layla
And I kiss this wall and that wall
It’s not Love of the houses that has taken my heart
But of the One who dwells in those houses

Some bowed their heads first – touching their foreheads to the ground, others raised their eyes to the heavens, imbued by the transcendent artistry above them – but all were witnessing the majesty and royal magnificence of Allah, The Most High.  The artistry of the intricate calligraphy instantly compelled the viewer to testify to the greatness of Allah, The Lord of the Worlds.  Tourists exclaimed “amazing” while pilgrims uttered “subhanallah” and lovers stared in silent bewilderment – awe struck by the inspiration, love and faith that inspired Sinan, the grand architect of the Ottoman’s, to build such houses of worship that penetrate into one’s heart and cause it to testify to the greatness of The Most High.

Entering the mosque one first had to bow their head in order to pass under the leather covering halfway down, forcing one to enter the Masjid in a humbled state.  This humility towards Allah was a common theme amongst the early Ottomans, who, as Shaykh Mokhtar Maghraoui told us, added an extra minaret to the Haram Sharif in Makkah so that it might not be said that the Sultan Ahmed Mosque had more minarets with its six.  We soaked up knowledge from Shaykh Mokhtar like children drinking from the nurturing hands of its guardian.

One could not help but to wonder at the love for the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him) that the Ottomans possessed, especially after witnessing the love with which they preserved so many early relics of the Prophet and his companions at the Topkapi Palace.  To this day one witnesses the living tradition of the Quran being recited live at the palace as one partakes in the visual and spiritual splendor of the most sacred treasures of Muslim history that give a rare glimpse into the reality of the earliest Muslims – from the sword of the Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) to the original stamp of the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him).  Seeing so many precious relics, offering prayers at some of the greatest Masajid in the world, shedding tears at the graves of our pious predecessors and sharing laughter all the while – we were able to see why Istanbul is so special.

Our journey took us from the Hagia Sophia to the Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque where we were blessed to kiss the black stone and see the blessed hair of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).  The blessings in the relics of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) are well established in hadith literature.  The tears that flowed upon seeing the sandal of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) or the white undershirt brought the reality of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) home as that of a man, the unpatched holes of his shirt bringing tears to the eyes of those who realized the utterly amazing humility of a man who had the distinction of being lauded as being of “a tremendous nature” (Al-Quran, 68:4) and a “mercy to mankind” (Al-Quran, 21:17) by none other than Allah, glorified be He, Himself!

We were also blessed to see the master calligrapher Turan and illuminator, Eda,  of the Hilye, the famous hadith of Hadhrat Ali (May Allah ennoble his face) that describes the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.  We watched in amazement as these masters of their craft demonstrated how they make these treasures.

We came from many different backgrounds but under the leadership of Sidi Moutasem Atiya, and accompanied by our Turkish host and guide Goktan, our group developed unity of purpose.  No longer was this merely a vacation, but it had transformed into a spiritual journey for most.  Appreciating the sacrifice of the early Muslims took on fresh meaning as we visited the resting places of Sufyan Ibn Ubeyne, Wahab, Amir ibn Al-Aas, and Sultan Ayub Ansari (May Allah be pleased with him), who despite old age and sickness did not retreat from the opportunity to go out in the way of Allah, requesting the Muslim army to bury him under the walls of Constantinople.

Allah states in The Noble Quran in Surah Baqarah, verse 115:

And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of Allah . Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.

When the Beloved is in one’s heart, they shall find their Beloved wherever they turn.  Istanbul’s people, history, and rich Islamic culture provide substance to the meaning of the above verse for this writer.  Straddling the line between Europe and Asia – Istanbul retains its Islamic flavor whilst combining east and west.  Istanbul is defiant in its uniqueness – and taking a peek under its secular surface we were able to see its true love for Allah.  Everywhere one turned people were turning to Allah in their actions and expressing gratitude towards Allah.  Like the whirling dervishes who spin in all directions yet stay centered by the gravity of their belief in Allah – the people of Turkey continue to evolve with time yet have retained their love and respect for The Most High in a manner that gives hope to Muslims living as minorities in the West.  Istanbul is a city where Christians, Muslims, and Jews coexist in peace and harmony, and that is a tradition of Islam that should be cherished.

Of the many gemlike utterances of Shaykh Mokhtar Maghraoui one that was particularly memorable was at the farewell dinner by the Eyüp Sultan Mosque, when he reminded us of the hadith recorded in Abu Dawud in which the Holy Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stated: “He who does not thank Allah does not thank people.”  Our deepest gratitude and prayers go out to Sidi Moutasem Atiya and his family, whose inspiration and commitment to bringing Muslims in the West a vision of Islamic greatness came together perfectly on this trip.  Shaykh Mokhtar Maghraoui blessed our group with pearls of wisdom the entire journey, uplifting our spirits above the fray to where we could see with our visions clearly.  To him we offer an abundance of gratitude as we keep him in our prayers, inshallah.  Goktan was our captain, opening doors to sites that otherwise had their doors locked to us while in the process opening the doors to our hearts.

The people of Turkey and Muslims around the world deserve our prayers.  Istanbul has its share of poverty, and more than a few refugees from Syria, full of dignity, can be seen on its streets.  As one walked down the street it was not uncommon to hear someone call out “Hajji” or “Abdullah” for help.  In one instance, a young girl – not more than 5 years of age, who was sitting in the middle of a sidewalk at midnight, received a small trifle from a passerby.  The passerby had expected her to say “thank you” as that was the customary response, or perhaps it was his nafs (ego) that had become hardened and accustomed to giving itself more importance than it deserved.  Instead, the young girl said “thank God” in the most clear English.  As the passerby walked he realized she had reinforced a valuable lesson.  He was not to be thanked, for anything the little girl received was truly from God.  Man is merely the excuse by which God gives His creation.  Secondly, she was teaching him to thank God.  This young girl probably stayed on the sidewalk for countless hours a day when she should be taken care of and nurtured with love and affection.  So many people are blessed but don’t realize it and in turn never live up to their potential because they are too focused on what they don’t have.  As Allah says in Surah Al-Rahman, “Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?”  This innocent child, who to the Western eye would seem to have not much to thank God for, still thanked Allah, The Most Merciful, for what she had despite her hardened circumstances.  She didn’t complain or cry or pity herself for her condition – instead she accepted what Allah provided her and humbly thanked him.  She embodied gratefulness to Allah, the spirit of true Islam.  May Allah grant her a life of plenty and make this ummah victorious once again under the banner of Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).


Hadia Tajik: Norway’s First Muslim Cabinet Member

For the first time in Norway’s history, a Muslim woman has been named Minister of Culture.

On September 22, Hadia Tajik, a 29 year old woman of Pakistani heritage, replaced Anniken Huitfeldt as Minister of Culture, who became Minister of Labour and Social Affairs in a cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

“We have made these changes to make room for new values, new force and new ideas,” said Mr. Stoltenberg to the press. “It is a combination of renewal and continuity.”

A member of parliament for the Labour Party, Tajik is also the youngest minister Norwegian political history.  While working as advisor for Minister of Justice Knut Storberget from 2008 to 2009, Hadia Tajik helped secure the right of women to don hijab during government service, which was overturned due to the political controversy it stirred in the conservative country.

In Norway, which has a population of about 4.5 million, Muslims number around 150,000.

In July of 2011, Norway was attacked by the Islamophobic terrorist  Anders Behring Breivik.  Breivik killed 69 people in a youth camp organized by the ruling Norwegian Labour Party (AP).  Breivik, a former member of the right-wing Progress Party, is now serving a 21 year prison sentence.

Norway has recently seen thousands of Muslims and leaders of other faiths, such as the Bishop of Oslo, come out in peaceful protest against recent media attacks on the character of the historical figure most beloved by Muslims, Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

Turkish Students Develop Unique Eco-friendly Shower/Washing Machine

How Wash-It Works:

Turkish students Ahmet Burak Aktas, Adem Onalan, Salih Berk Ilhan and Burak Soylemez developed an eco-friendly shower unit that fulfills fantasies of simultaneously showering while one’s clothes are being washed.  The inventors included a feature that recycles water by means of a filtration and cleansing system.  The emphasis the inventors placed on water conservation is important in a world with increasing population and limited resources.   

In theory this invention should take-off like a rocket as most people enjoy washing themselves as well as wearing clean clothes.  Read more about their cool invention by clicking the link below.

Washit is a Shower and Washing Machine in One | Green Prophet.

The Prophetic Model of Tolerance & Mercy in Today’s Intolerant World

In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful

Islam is an oft misunderstood religion, and it is well known that people often fear what they don’t understand.  Not understanding one another’s beliefs may have been excusable in the middle ages when there was no internet or library on every corner like there is today.  Today, however, the world is much more interconnected.  If one has been blessed to have access to education, to a library, or to the internet – the excuses for not having at least a basic understanding of the major belief systems of the world diminish rather quickly if one is honest with themselves.

Islam is widely said to have been founded by the holy Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).  Allah is an arabic word that translates into “God” and literally translates into “the God” in arabic.  In fact, Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was the last and seal of prophets of divine revelation that included Abraham, Jesus, and Moses, (Upon all of whom may Allah shower His peace and blessings) to name a few.  The Quran is the last of the holy books of revelation from Allah that included the original Torah and the original gospel of Jesus, and was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) through the angel Jibreel (Gabriel).  Islam teaches that all the messengers of Allah are brothers to one another.  Of the messengers of Allah, it says in the Quran in Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 285 that:

“We make no distinction between any of His messengers.”

Although in one sense there is an egalitarianism that all messengers share, each messenger of Allah had his own special qualities.  Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) possessed the special quality of mercy.  His actions, speech, and mannerisms embodied the divine attribute of mercy. Regarding Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Allah says in the Holy Quran, Surah Al-Anbiyaa, verse 107: “And We have not sent you forth but as a mercy to mankind.”  Entire compendiums have been written on the subject of Prophet Muhammad’s mercy (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), but this writer would like to share one such instance.

Prophet Muhammad’s Stoning at Ta’if

In the year 619, after what is traditionally known as the Year of Sorrow due to the passing of two of the closest family members of the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): Khadijah and Abu Talib (May Allah have mercy on them both), Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) travelled to the city of Ta’if to spread the message of Islam.  Upon reaching Ta’if, he was greeted with stones by the people of the city, perhaps due to their loyalty to the fiercely pagan Meccans.  When the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was leaving the city, bloodied and beaten, the Archangel Jibreel (Gabriel) came to Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said that if the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) wished he would topple a mountain over the city of Ta’if.  The Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) declined and instead prayed for the people of Ta’if, saying:

O Allah, To Thee I complain of my weakness, my lack of resources and my lowliness before men.
O most Merciful! Thou art the Lord of the weak and Thou art my Lord. To whom wilt Thou relinquish my fate! To one who will misuse me? Or to an enemy to whom Thou hast given power over me? If Thou art not angry with me then I care not what happens to me. Thy favor is all that counts for me.

I take refuge in the light of Thy countenance, by which all darkness is illuminated. And the things of this world and next are rightly ordered. I wish to please Thee until Thou art pleased. There is no power and no might save in Thee.

For a beautiful explanation of this incident and dua, please watch Shaykh Hamza Yusuf as he explains the dua below:

Tolerance and Mercy as The Prophetic Example

The above example is just one of many instances in which the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) set an example for his followers of tolerance and mercy.  The best way to honor someone you love is to uphold what they stood for in your own actions with honor and dignity.  If someone, in person or on the internet, calls me a name – does it make me so merely by their saying I am such?  Of course not.  In the same vein, if someone states a falsehood about the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) it does not make it so merely because they say it is such.  To engage in dialogue is the way of civility and the way of the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).  In The Holy Quran, Surah Al-Nahl, Verse 125, Allah states: “Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way.”  To take out one’s anger for the intentionally provocative actions of an individual party on the embassy of a nation is to fly in the face of logic, laws, and religion.  To murder an innocent is the worst crime one can commit.  Allah says in The Holy Quran, Surah Maidah, Verse 32: “[W]hoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.”

In short, certain groups should stop being ignorant and insulting entire swathes of the world’s religious communities for their own political and personal gain, and certain religious communities should be tolerant enough of people’s freedom of speech that they don’t react violently every time some drug addicted, convicted con-artist makes a poor quality Youtube video insulting their religious beliefs.  How sad when the actions of those who claim to be defending the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) actually denigrate him and his beautiful message.

Disclaimer: The demonstrations at U.S. embassies throughout the world were portrayed in the media as being in response to a video that insulted and told lies about the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).  It is understood that the causes and reasons behind these demonstrations may vary and have political depth to them that is not addressed by popular media.  In no way does this writer hold himself out to be a scholar/expert in religion or world events.  The opinions expressed herein are solely that of the writers and do not explicitly or implicitly represent that of any individual or group.  ICNA and ISNA have denounced violence that has recently occurred.  This post is merely a reflection of one Muslim’s limited perspective on the prophetic model of tolerance and mercy as applied to his limited understanding of recent events.   Anything correct stated herein is due solely to the grace of Allah, and any mistakes are that of the writer for which he seeks divine pardon from The Most Merciful.

Muslim Green Lantern broadens superhero world | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News

Muslim Green Lantern broadens superhero world | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News.

Simon Baz is the Muslim Green Lantern.

DC Comics has introduced a new Green Lantern – a Muslim from Dearborn, Michigan, who leaves behind street racing to join an intergalactic police force.

Simon Baz, the muscular protagonist in his early 20s with the Arabic word for courage, “al-shuja’a,” tattooed on his arm, is the latest example of superhero diversity in the comic book world. His debut comes after DC Comics unveiled a gay Green Lantern in June and Marvel Comics presented a half-black, half-Latino Spider-Man last year.

“In typical comic books there’s a big handsome white guy and that’s it. But that’s not the world we live in, and comics are reflecting that,” Thor Parker, social marketing and event director at Midtown Comics in New York, told Reuters. Parker’s store was selling the new comic book on Wednesday.

Most comic book fans know the Green Lantern’s alter ego as Hal Jordan, who is Caucasian, a ladies’ man who was played by Ryan Reynolds in the 2011 film.

But GREEN LANTERN #0, released on Wednesday, tells the story of Baz, an American of Arab ancestry raised in a Muslim family. He is chosen to be part of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police force.

The original Green Lantern was introduced in 1940 with a character named Alan Scott. DC revived the Green Lantern in 1959 with Jordan.

The new story begins with Baz as a child watching television images of a burning World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, according to a copy of the comic book viewed by Reuters.

As an adult, Baz, with a criminal record for illegal street racing, turns to car theft after he loses his job at an automobile factory. A car he tries to steal lands him in the middle of a terrorism investigation. Later on, he is magically bestowed with a ring that gives him super powers and anoints him a Green Lantern.

Geoff Johns, who writes the Green Lantern series, said Baz’s character was part of an effort to diversify the universe of superheroes.

“There’s no real prominent Arab-American superheroes in DC (Comics) at all,” Johns told Reuters, adding that Baz’s background also dovetailed with the superhero’s story.

“You are chosen to become a Green Lantern because you are of the ability to overcome great fear, and I thought that would be a great (theme) to play with, with a character of this background,” he said.

GREEN LANTERN #0 is part of a collection released in September that tells the back story of famous DC Comics characters. Baz will be the focus of several more comic books, Johns said, but he declined to say for how long.

The next Green Lantern comic book, in which Baz will be the focus, will be released in October.

You have the ability to overcome great fear.